“What do you do all day when you are at home?” persisted the American.
“In winter there is nothing to do but to hunt and fish,” said Kalitan. “Sometimes we do not find much game, then we think of how, when a Thlinkit dies, he has plenty. If he has lived as a good tribesman, his kyak glides smoothly over the silver waters into the sunset, until, o’er gently flowing currents, it reaches the place of the mighty forest. A bad warrior’s canoe passes dark whirlpools and terrible rapids until he reaches the place we speak not of, where reigns Sitth.
“In the summer-time we still hunt and fish. Many have learned to till the ground, and we gather berries and wood for the winter. The other side of the inlet, the tree-trunks drift from the Yukon and are stranded on the islands, so there is plenty for firewood. But upon our island the women gather a vine and dry it. They collect seaweed for food in the early spring, and dry it and press it into square cakes, which make good food after they have hung long In the sun. They make baskets and sell them to the white people. Often my uncle and I take them to Valdez, and once we brought back fifty dollars for those my mother made. There is always much to do.”
“Don’t you get terribly cold hunting in the winter?” asked Ted.
“Thlinkit boy not a baby,” said Kalitan, a trifle scornfully. “We begin to be hardened when we are babies. When I was five years old, I left my father and went to my uncle to be taught. Every morning I bathed in the ocean, even if I had to break ice to find water, and then I rolled in the snow. After that my uncle brushed me with a switch bundle, and not lightly, for his arm is strong. I must not cry out, no matter if he hurt, for a chief’s son must never show, pain nor fear. That would give his people shame.”
“Don’t you get sick?” asked Ted? who felt cold all over at the idea of being treated in such a heroic manner.
“The Kooshta comes sometimes,” said Kalitan, “The Shaman used to cast him out, but now the white doctor can do it, unless the kooshta is too strong.”
[Footnote 3: Kooshta, a spirit in animal’s form which inhabits the body of sick persons and must be cast out, according to Thlinkit belief.]
[Footnote 4: Shaman, native medicine-man.]
Ted was puzzled as to Kalitan’s exact meaning, but did not like to ask too many questions for fear of being impolite, so he only said: “Being sick is not very nice, anyhow.”
“To be bewitched is the most terrible,” said Kalitan, gravely.
“How does that happen?” asked Ted, eagerly, but Kalitan shook his head.
“It is not good to hear,” he said. “The medicine-man must come with his drum and rattle, and he is very terrible. If the white men will not allow any more the punishing of the witches, they should send more of the white medicine-men, if we are not to have any more of our own.”